The University of Wisconsin offers masters and Ph.D. programs in over
150 fields, and is one of the largest graduate programs in the country.
A major emphasis at our institution is on interdepartmental and inter-school
collaboration in graduate education. Our training program in respiratory
neurobiology fits beautifully within this context, bringing together
trainers from 6 different departments (Comparative Biosciences, Population
Health Sciences, Medicine, Pediatrics, Psychiatry and
Surgery) in two schools (Veterinary Medicine and Medicine).
Pre-doctoral trainees are enrolled in existing graduate degree programs
suitable to their career goals. Specifically, students enroll in non-departmental,
discipline based graduate programs (Neuroscience
Training Program, Cell and Molecular Biology) or in programs
administered by specific departments (Physiology,
Kinesiology and Biomedical
Engineering). Thus, pre-doctoral students may have their graduate
program administered by any department or program in which their
principal trainer (major professor) holds an affiliation. An important
feature of the graduate programs at the University of Wisconsin is
that all graduate courses are available to any graduate student,
regardless of their program affiliation-they are regarded simply
as members of the Graduate School at the University of Wisconsin.
Thus, our current arrangement allows considerable flexibility in
the individual graduate programs undertaken by pre-doctoral trainees
funded with this grant.
Pre-doctoral candidates for admission to our training program in respiratory
neurobiology must be admitted by the University of Wisconsin Graduate
School for study toward the Ph.D. degree and, subsequently, by the
individual graduate degree programs (e.g. Neuroscience, Physiology,
Comparative Biomedical Science, etc.). Pre-doctoral trainees
funded by this grant can apply directly for admission to these graduate
degree programs, contacting members of our training program only after
their admission. However, more frequently, candidates approach one
of our trainers directly prior to applying for admission to the Graduate
School. The trainee and trainer, in consultation, then select the appropriate
degree program to foster his/her career development.
Before a pre-doctoral trainee is funded by our grant, approval from
the Steering Committee is necessary (in addition to admission to the
Graduate School and the degree program). Often, a trainee has already
selected a specific laboratory and mentor prior to matriculation at
the University of Wisconsin. In these cases, we do not require laboratory
rotations. However, if a specific mentor has not yet been chosen, trainees
will be allowed to rotate through the laboratories of two or more trainers
during their first year of graduate school. The trainee then selects
a major professor for purposes of pursuing their thesis research at
the end of the first year. In each of the graduate degree programs normally
chosen by our trainees, an advisory (thesis) committee of five faculty
is convened to oversee their academic and scientific progress, and to
advise them concerning their course selections.
Trainees are required to achieve satisfactory (B or higher) performance
from courses meeting the requirements of the degree program. We require
that every pre-doctoral trainee funded by this training grant take coursework
at both the cellular/molecular and the systems/organism levels. For
example, students enrolled in the Neuroscience Training Program would
take cellular/molecular neurobiology (Neuroscience 610) as well as a
systems neurobiology course (Neuroscience 611) as a core curriculum.
Additional course requirements are distributed between neuroscience
specialty courses (with required breadth between cell/molecular and
systems), and non-neuroscience courses of relevance to their scientific
training (e.g. statistics and experimental design). Students also undertake
formal training in ethics and professional survival skills (see below)
and participate extensively in our various journal clubs and seminar
series. We place a high premium on assuring that all trainees speak
regularly through seminars on their research, journal club presentations
and teaching experiences so that they are highly proficient in oral
communication skills by the end of their program. An equal emphasis
is placed on the development of written communication skills. Special
educational experiences designed specifically for the trainees supplement
their formal course requirements (e.g. short courses at other venues
see below). Preliminary or qualifying exams, completion of a series
of research studies on a theme forming the doctoral dissertation and
the successful presentation and defense of the thesis research form
the remaining basis of requirements for the Ph.D. degree. Research training
(beyond the formal course work) to completion of the Ph.D. degree usually
takes two to three years.
The major professor and the thesis committee are responsible for monitoring
the pre-doctoral trainees' performance in course work and research.
Strict requirements set regular meetings of the thesis committee. Research
progress is also monitored by trainee presentations made during "in
progress" research meetings.
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